According to Gallup, 45% of people in the U.S. are concerned about their weight. One of the most commonly-used tools in the Battle of the Bulge is the lowly bathroom weight scale. The problem with these devices is that your weight can fluctuate a lot from one day to the next. You may be losing body fat, but a large meal, dehydration, or other factors can obscure your progress. And most body fat measurements are not too accurate. So how can you know whether your diet and exercise program is having the desired effect?
A company called LEVL thinks that they have the answer. They have a device that can measure a specific biomarker in your breath to deduce how much fat your body is burning. You breath into a small canister, and the device measures the amount of acetone in your breath. When you metabolize fat, your body uses a process call ketosis, and one of the by-products is acetone. This makes its way to your bloodstream and on to the lungs, where it becomes part of the air that you exhale. The typical person exhales about 1 part per million (ppm) of acetone as part of the basic metabolic rate, according to LEVL. For every 1 ppm above this level, you are on pace to burn a half pound of fat in a week. The LEVL system will give you a score of 1 to 6 ppm; any score of 4 ppm or higher indicating an “elevated fat burning state.” There is also a companion app that tracks your scores for you. The product is expected to ship later in 2016.
Measuring biomarkers in the breath is a familiar practice, used by consumers and law enforcement personnel to measure ethanol as an indicator of inebriation. The LEVL takes this in a new direction, and it’s easy to see how more complex sensors can be used to create a matrix that can detect a wide range of biomarkers that can be of interest. The result could be the early detection of disease or other conditions, leading to early and more effective treatments.